UN hails RM22.53bil in new pledges to boost global connectivity


The ITU has been leading efforts to rectify a situation where a third of the world's population has never connected to the Internet, and is being left out of the advantages that digitalisation can provides. — Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

GENEVA: The United Nations said on May 27 that it had raked in US$4.8bil (RM22.53bil) in new pledges towards closing the global digital divide, bringing total pledges to over US$50bil (RM234.7bil).

Around 2.6 billion people, or one-third of the global population, remained offline in 2023, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, the UN's telecoms agency.

"Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity," ITU chief Doreen Bogdan-Martin said in a statement.

The ITU has been leading efforts to rectify a situation where a third of the world's population has never connected to the Internet, and is being left out of the advantages that digitalisation can provides.

In 2021, the Geneva-based UN agency launched the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, with the aim of using public-private partnerships to help increase digitalisation in the world's hardest-to-connect communities.

It has set a target of raising US$100bil (RM469.38bil) by 2026, and ITU hailed Monday that it was now more than halfway to that goal, with a total of US$50.96bil (RM239.19bil) in pledges so far.

The new pledges were announced on the first day of this year's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), being hosted by the ITU in Geneva this week.

Among the new commitments was a US$3bil (RM14bil)-pledge from US telecom giant AT&T.

The company, which had previously pledged US$2bil (RM9.38bil) to the project, vowed to help 25 million people in the hardest-to-connect areas of the United States to get and stay connected by 2030.

The Canadian government meanwhile pledged US$1.46bil (RM6.85bil) towards investment in computing infrastructure to support artificial intelligence (AI) businesses and researchers in the country.

Canada also committed to spend an additional US$292mil (RM1.37bil) to among other things help facilitate the adoption of AI across the country's economy, and to create a new Canadian AI Safe Institute to examine and protect against the risks of advanced AI systems.

And Elle International made three pledges worth a total of US$106mil (RM497.54mil) to help improve the quality of life of 20 million women and girls in South Africa through the provision of digital platforms, smart solutions, data and AI models.

"Because of the leadership, vision and ambition of P2C's pledgers, millions of people will be given the opportunity to have more accessible, more affordable digital technologies for socioeconomic growth, improved health and everything that makes connectivity meaningful," Bogdan-Martin said. – AFP

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